Director: Vicente Juarbe.
Starring: Roselyn Sanchez (Young Julia), Ivan Camilo (Kike), Raķl Carbonell (Willie), Ineabelle Colůn (Matilde), Roberto Colůn, Greg D'Agostino (Rowdy Construction Worker), Kamar De Los Reyes (Young Ivan), Carlos Esteban Fonseca (Ivan), Jesus Garcťs, Adrian Garcia (Pepe), Josť Fťlix Gůmez, Yamaris Latorre (Lourdes), Aris Mejias, Pedro J. MuZiz-Lůpez (Joaquin), Pedro MuZiz, Idalia Pťrez Garay (Julia), Yahaira Pťrez, Julio Ramos, Daniaris RodrŪguez, Gerardo RodrŪguez, Luis Enrique Romero (Miguel), Joshua Rosado-Berrios, Wanda L. Sais (Julia Mariana), James Stevens-Arce (Dr. Bob Lewis), Brian Tester (Pete), Valeria Torres (Matilde Child), Ńngel VŠzquez (Mike).
Puerto Rican Vietnam vet from the island of Culebra has difficulties adjusting to civilian life
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Did you know or do you remember that Puerto Rico is a part of the United States and its young men are subject to the US military draft?
The islands of the Caribbean are hotbeds for stories of love y hate. This is one of those stories. In New York City, a one-time resident of Culebra, Puerto Rico, named Ivan is in the operating room of a hospital.
Flashback. In the jungles of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Ivan serves as a medic. He shouts to a very badly wounded soldier "Don't you die on me. Stay with me, damn it! Donít you die!" The soldier dies.
Back to the present. Ivan's situation sounds bad as the surgeon tells his staff: "There's nothing else we can do. Letís close him up."
Flashback to some forty years earlier. At a playland, young Ivan sees a girl that he likes. He and his friend Kike buy some cotton candy and offer it to Julia and her friend Matilde. The meeting is brief as the boys are called by their friends to come and play. Julia says to Matilde about Ivan: "That is such a cute boy!"
Back to the present. The doctor talks with Ivan and his wife Julia about Ivan's medical condition. Itís bad. The cancer is very wide-spread. Julia asks the doctor: "How much time?" The doctor replies: "Six months. Maybe less." Ivan says that that is "Not much time to get your shit together."
Flashback. On the beach, the boys take an oath: blood brothers forever. The girls run to get Ivan to tell him that his grandmother has died. This upsets Ivan a great deal. He does not attend the funeral. Instead he hides in the woods. He goes missing for two days. His close friends know where Ivan is, but won't tell the adults. They bring food out to Ivan. Ivan tells Kike that he really likes Julia. Kike tells him the same thing. Ivan then says that Julia is his girlfriend. Kike just says "we'll see." Julia arrives and gives Ivan a kiss.
Now older teenagers, Ivan and Kike kid around with Julia at a playland. The three refer to themselves as a trio.
Back to the present. Julia looks at the photo from that day at playland. She and Ivan are going to return to their childhood home on Culebra. On the island Matilde reads a letter from Julia. In the letter Julia thanks Matilde for obtaining a little house for them. Ivan only talks about being buried on his island, but there is the expectation that at least they will be home and maybe closer to Kike. Ivan and Julia say goodbye to their adult children.
On Culebra, the couple move into their little house. Julia hangs up a hammock saying hammocks bring back good memories. Julia goes on a photography trip by herself, since Ivan just wants to stay home. Alone in the house, he feels the pain in his stomach area. He falls to the floor with the pain. On another day, she forces him to go with her into town. Ivan looks for some old friends. One is no longer living on the island. Another died of pancreatic cancer. With more inquiries, he finds out that many of his other friends have also died. In despair he says that everybody seems to have died and that he is next in line. Ivan tells his wife that Culebra is a good place to die, a remark that makes them both feel sad.
Alone in the house, Ivan falls from his chair crying from the pain in his stomach area. He is having trouble walking on the street now. In frustration, he throws his dinner onto the floor. Matilde talks with Kike. We learn that there must have been a fight between Kike and Ivan sometime in the past. Kike will not tell Matilde what happened. But he does say that he feels as if it happened just yesterday.
Flashback. The trio are having a lot of fun. They talk about their futures. Julia wants to travel the world and take photographs. Ivan wants to stay on Culebra and raise a family. Kike wants to become a shipís captain.
Back to the present. Ivan walks slowly past the domino players. An old friend Wilfredo Benitez greets Ivan. Wilfredo tries to get Ivan to come with him to catch some lobster, but Ivan protests that he still does not feel well. Wilfredo, however, will not take no for an answer, so Ivan goes with him.
Flashback. Ivan tells Julia that he has been drafted into the army of the United States. This upsets Julia a great deal. She is very worried. Ivan promises Julia that he will come back; he will not die over there. He then asks Julia if she will wait for him. She says yes and then cries.
Back to the present. Wilfredo and Ivan are hunting lobster from a boat. Ivan's friend dives to get the lobster. Ivan feels pain in his stomach area again. It's been awhile since he has seen his friend go under the water. Wilfredo finally surfaces only to say that his foot is caught, entangled in some rope. Ivan gives him a knife and Wilfredo cuts himself free. Later Wilfredo thanks Ivan for saving his life.
On their way back Ivan sees Cayo Pescao, a place where he used to go as a kid. Wilfredo tells him that an old healer lived there at one time. It is said that the healer helped people recover their health there. Cayo Pescao makes Ivan nostalgic and he asks a fellow if he can buy his boat. The guy says they can talk about a price.
The next day, Ivan takes the boat and travels over to Cayo Pescao. He thinks about what Wilfredo said about people regaining their health there. Ivan lays in the sand and in the shallow water soaking up the sun. The next day he takes his wife for a ride in his motor boat. They eat at a nice seaside restaurant. He then takes her over to Cayo Pescao.
On the dock Ivan asks a young girl named Aiditaz if he can help her. She looks like she is very high on drugs. He carries her to his house. Julia and Ivan tell her that they want to help her. They later learn that she is Kike's daughter.
Ivan and Julia go to Cayo Pescao again. They are very happy. They kiss. Ivan says that he could live there forever. Drinking at a bar, Kike sees them return from Cayo Pescao. He does not look like a happy man.
Flashback. Ivan is leaving the island to go to Vietnam. He tells Kike to take care of Julia for him.
Back to the present. Ivan runs into Kike at the bar. They say hello to each other. Kike says he has to leave, but Ivan says: "No, you are not leaving. Don't you have five minutes to share with me?" Kike gets angry when Ivan persists and leaves the bar. Ivan talks to Julia about Kike. Kike is an alcoholic and difficult to handle. But Ivan is not giving up.
Flashback. Ivan is in Vietnam. He writes a letter to Julia saying that the place is a nightmare. There no one really knows who is the real enemy, them or ourselves. He adds that he tries to only think of her.
A young woman complains that her boyfriend Rafa writes that he has fallen in love with a Chinese woman in Vietnam and that she is having his baby. She tells Julia that the same thing will happen to her. Kike visits with Julia at the carnival booth where she sells food. He flirts with her and then gives her a new camera. Julia is really surprised and pleased. She gives Kike a kiss on the cheek.
Kike tells Julia that he has been admitted to the marine academy and that he is leaving Culebra soon. He will be at sea for eight months. Kike then tells Julia that he loves her. He wants to kiss her, but Julia tells him to stop it. He persists, they kiss and hug but she stops.
Julia closes up the carnival shop for the night. She goes out with Kike and some of his friends to a bar where they both get a little drunk. Kike starts kissing her. She gets up and goes to the juke box. They dance in a very sexy manner. Outside the bar they kiss. They have sex.
Julia is very happy because Ivan finally wrote after a long time without writing any letters. He explains that he was captured. His leg got infected. But now he is in New York City. And he wants her to marry him. Julia and her friends are very happy. On a ship, Kike brags to the captain about his pretty girlfriend back home. Julia writes Kike a dear John letter saying that she was very confused, but that now she is going to grab her happiness with Ivan. She signs it "with all my love, Julia."
Kike returns from the sea. He asks Matilde where is Julia and is told that she left for New York. But she left a letter for him. The letter crushes Kike. He starts drinking a lot. He rereads the ending of the letter. "Te quiero mucho, Julia."
Matilde tells Kike to stop drinking. She tells him that Julia wants to know why he keeps returning her letter to him unopened. More news: Julia is having a baby. Kike cries. He thinks about the good times with the three of them together.
Back to the present. Julia runs into Kike. Kike only says a couple of sentences to her and then leaves. Julia runs after him and asks him if they can talk. She tells him that his daughter needs him. He tells her to stop meddling in his affairs. Julia says that Ivan needs him too. Kike replies that she must have lied to Ivan too. Julia says that she and Ivan have enough problems and that she would not let anyone make it any worse. She turns and leaves.
Ivan is fishing. Julia talks with Matilde. Matilde tells her that Kike has been holding a grudge for 30 years. Julia says that Kike was one of the reasons they came back to Culebra. They both say that Ivan is really doing well now. He is like another person. Now Ivan plays dominos with the guys. He and some buddies go camping on Cayo. They talk about the history of Cayo Pescao. Ivan says he has now been on Culebra for a year and a half. They drink a toast to friendship: "Salud!"
Back on Culebra Ivan sees how terrible Aiditaz looks. He invites her to his house to eat dinner. She still harbors some bad feelings, saying: "For you who have it all, life is always a rose garden."
Flashback. Julia writes a letter to Matilde complaining about Ivan. She says that he is no longer the man she married. He has lost his will to live. He mixes alcohol with the drugs he started taking after coming back from Vietnam. He starts to pay attention to the prostitutes at the bar. His son, Ivan Jr., has been asking where his daddy is. Julia tells Ivan: "Iím getting fed up with you. Stay in the street. Donít come back here." She explodes verbally at him and he hits her. This makes her angry and she throws Ivan to the ground. At the end of letter Julia writes: "Itís so sad to end this way, after so much love!" Ivan is still having flashbacks of the war.
Back to the present. Julia and Ivan tries to help Kikeís daughter get off drugs. She fights with them, saying she wants to remain a junkie. They have to restrain her. She finally calms down and tells them: "Donít leave me." Ivan has dreams of Vietnam where he confronts Aiditaz as a Vietnamese soldier, barrel to barrel.
Ivan goes back to Cayo Pescao. The rangers are there looking at his little palm hut. They tell him that he has been using this area without authorization. They explain that they cannot allow visitors on the island because it is a nature preserve. They tell him not to have any more fires and certainly no more private parties. Furthermore, he is not allowed to return to the area.
Kike comes to Julia's house looking for his daughter. He gets into an argument with Julia and tells her: "Julia you left me. You failed me." Aiditaz will not leave with her father. She tells him that she has never felt better in her life. Kike has to leave without her.
A group confronts the mayor about poor Ivan being kicked off Cayo, his favorite place. They want greater access to Cayo Pescao. The federal inspectors put up a "No trespassing" sign. Ivan has severe heart pains.
Ivan comes to talk with Kike, but they only end up getting into a verbal fight. Kike starts to tell Ivan that when he was in Vietnam Julia had forgotten about him. "And then something happened that we couldnít avoid. Ask Julia to tell you the truth." Ivan gets angry and replies: "What good is it now? " He asks Kike to help him with the Cayo problem. If the feds keeps him off the key, his heart will be torn out. Kike only says: "Then we would be even." Ivan says that Kike is the one person he has missed the most in his life. He ends by saying: "I donít know what happened, and I donít care. If I wronged you, Iím sorry, forgive me."
Wilfredo gives the mayor a petition concerning Cayo with about 400 signatures. Ivan falls unconscious on the boat dock. Aiditaz speaks to her father. He is happy to see that she is still clean of drugs. She says: "Yes. No thanks to you. You are a traitor and a snitch. You tipped off the federals to take the key away from Ivan." Kike says " I did not do that!" but Aiditaz is not listening. She just walks away from him.
The mayor returns from a meeting. He tells Wilfredo that the Governor says that he does not have jurisdiction over the key. Ivan is on his sickbed. Wilfredo speaks with a group of residents telling them that they must take matters into their own hands. "We cannot have the government telling us what we can do with our land." A large group in a small fleet of boats descends on Cayo. The federal inspectors call for help. "Red Alert!! Red alert!!" They tell the boaters: "Do not attempt to disembark. . . . This is your final warning. . . You cannot land here." But the protestors land anyway. Wilfred says: "We will keep coming here until they give us the key." They camp on the little island and put up a big sign saying "Cayo is Ours!"
The mayor tells his people that they won!! He tells them that they should go see Ivan at his house and tell him the good news. At home Ivan tells Julia: "I hope youíll be able to love again." Kike arrives. His daughter and Matilde try to stop him from seeing Ivan. But Kike persists and they have to relent. Kike tells Ivan that he has come to see him. They talk for awhile. The mayor-led group approaches Ivan's house shouting: "El cayo es nuestro!! El cayo es nuestro!!" Kike tells Ivan that they are blood brothers forever. The crowd tells Julia that they won.
Alone, Julia tells Ivan on his death bed that they are back on Cayo walking in the warm sand. The sun guides them. Ivan dies and Julia cries.
They have the funeral for Ivan. Now Kike, Aiditaz and Matilde seem to be happier together.
Good movie. It definitely kept my interest. I only have a more minor complaint. Julia never really had to confront what she did to either man in her life. Nor did Kike have to confront what he did to his friend Ivan. Of course, one reason for this was Ivan's determined stand that he did not want to know what happened between Julia and Kike. (But I want characters to have to face the consequences of their bad behavior. I would have liked to have seen the matter at least discussed.) I was also wondering how could a man who loves a woman so much, so naively share her so much with another man. It seemed a little too naive and a little too weird for my taste. I would certainly not recommend it as a wise idea. Friends are friends, but they can't be confused with the love between one man and a woman. To confuse the two things is to bring only heartache and pain. Roselyn Sanchez as Julia was very pretty, but not as pretty as she looks now at an older age. But either way, I enjoy seeing her on film.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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